The tendency manifests itself elsewhere as well:
- We rush through explanations of ideas that we find easy to understand even if our audience is completely ignorant of them (a group of trainees at work, for example).
- We are dumbfounded by the way foreigners act, even though their actions are shocking only when considered in light of our beliefs - in light of theirs they make perfect sense.
- We find a book fascinating and recommend it to others, fully expecting them to think the same, but not realizing it was only interesting to us because of our unique experiences.
- We are less confident when we go out looking like shit because we assume everyone else thinks so too.
The list is endless.
We do this because it is efficient, even if at times it is inaccurate. We probably could afford to consider the culture of a foreign country before gasping in disbelief at the actions of their citizens; however, it is less likely that before we walk out the door for the evening we will have time to consider the variety of opinions everyone who lays eyes on us will have about our choice of clothes. Or it would be ridiculous to thoroughly interview each of the new employee we are tasked with training so that we'll know exactly what each of them has learned previously, in order to avoid skipping any nugget of new material. Sure, these things are possible, but it is simpler and usually inconsequential to simply assume you look to everyone else the way you thought you did in the mirror, or assume the things that are obvious to you are also obvious to the new hires. This is how we operate as humans. It doesn't always work but usually it gets us by - and what else are we going to do, given limited time and resources?
This same phenomenon explains why men and women are so clueless about one another and what the other wants. Because Western society has championed the idea that the sexes are equal (which I don't deny), we have also started to assume that they are the same (which I very strongly do). At least, we have allowed ourselves to get used to this idea enough that when we consider what is attractive to the opposite sex, we are far less prone to interrupt our default course of action. In other words, we are far less likely to hesitate before we project our own ideas of attractiveness onto the opposite sex. To whatever degree we allow ourselves (or are allowed) to make this projection, we will believe that what is attractive to us must also be attractive to them. And this is where things get all fucked up.
Here is a list of things that each sex tends to think the other likes, erroneously:
Men believe that women like...
- Physically attractive men (pretty boys)
- Nice guys
- Men that have no hair on their bodies
- Peaceful men
- Women that are elusive or "hard to get"
- Tall women (heels)
- Confident women
- Women who can drink liquor straight
- Women with status
Now, I realize that women do like nice guys and attractive guys, and I actually have male friends that have told me they are kind of into girls with status. Granted. Probably there are exceptions to all of the other items on the list. If there wasn't some element of truth to each item, none of them would be believable in the first place and I wouldn't be writing this. But I am sure that everyone has seen a girl throwing back a shot of whiskey to impress a group of guys, or a guy talking up the fact that he's cried in movies before because he thinks the girl listening will be into that. What is surprising is not that there are exceptions to the listed items; it is the level of importance that each sex is placing on them when they are infinitely more accurate as descriptions of their own sex's attractive attributes. To see this just consider the lists reversed:
Women actually like...
- Men that are "hard to get"
- Tall men
- Confident men
- Men who drink liquor straight
- Men with status
- Physically attractive women
- Sweet girls
- Women that have no hair on their bodies
- Sensitive girls
- Peaceful girls
Men and women would be so much more successful if they tried to emulate the reversed lists. Some members of both sexes obviously get this, and do. However; a surprising number don't, and it is due to the self-projection of our own desires onto the opposite sex.
I started by saying that we always try to project our perceptions on others because we do retreat when strong evidence indicates that our perceptions are incorrect, or at least, inapplicable. We might retract our judgement of the "asshole slow driver" if our passenger points out that he's actually 10 mph over the limit and we can afford to be a few minutes late. Likewise, an explanation of this phenomenon applied to sexual attraction might help some women understand that (for example) men are not attracted by female elusiveness, or that it makes perfect sense for them to dump the nice guy with no balls, and date an asshole with confidence. Overcoming this misconception is a huge first step in the right direction for women who want to make themselves more attractive to men.